“Looking at Easter from the Empty Tomb”
For many of us, years ago at Baptism we became Christian and the pastor marked our foreheads with oil in the sign of the cross. Since Baptism, we have lived with that cross on our foreheads as a marker that we have been claimed and sealed and belong to Jesus Christ as we believe in him as our Lord and Savior. Then, each year at the Ash Wednesday services in our churches, we have the opportunity to participate in a liturgy that once again places the sign of the cross on our foreheads, only this time it is in ashes, and we hear “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.” Quite the contradiction, don’t you think? The first sign invites us into a life saving relationship with God and the hope of a resurrection to eternal life. The second sign reminds us of our mortality and sin in this life. Both are appropriate thoughts for us to consider every day and thoughts we ought to give serious consideration throughout our life.
We are still traveling through the Lenten season and our mid-week Lenten worship services challenge us to consider how we understand our Christian lifestyle while we live and work and play in a secular society. The sermon series I prepared takes us through various stages of life where our Christian lifestyle and understanding is challenged in different ways because of the external influences everyone faces throughout the different times of a life. Additionally, at these stages and times, where do we turn and what do we rely upon to support and strengthen our faith when we can so often feel as if we are only one person against a whole society and culture? The series makes efforts each week to provide the resources and faith statements that we can rely on to carry us through the stages and seasons of life. So often, that is what the Lenten season offers up to us – a concentrated, intentional time when we make efforts to dig deeper into our faith so we are strengthened for the living out of our life as we prepare to walk into Jerusalem with Jesus where we visibly and emotionally experience how great God’s love for us really is.
As you receive this month’s Herald, we are getting very close to Holy Week: Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and the resurrection of Our Lord. In all the church year and church seasons we experience, this is by far the most intense. We move so quickly from the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem to the betrayal, the trial, the crucifixion and death, that we hardly have time to catch our breath. It is as if we fall off a hill, then slipping and sliding until we crash at the bottom, never finding a place to grab hold and reassess what has happened to us. During Holy Week, my adrenaline runs wide open as I go through the events of our Lord’s final week where it seems to end with the sounds of nails being hammered into his hands, arms and feet and he breathes his last breath.
But what I want you to know is that you and I are experiencing and watching all this, still with the sign of the cross on our foreheads. We have been claimed by God. We belong to God. We have been sealed by the Holy Spirit. Everything that is happening is happening so that we can be forgiven of our Sin and sins and have the hope of a resurrection to eternal life with God forever. All this happens proving to us how much our God loves us! On Easter morning, there is a flurry of activity that takes place with the disciples and around the tomb. Women go hoping to prepare the body for burial. The stone is gone. Several disciples race to the tomb to see what has happened. And in John’s gospel (20:8) we read “Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; ….” What did he see? He saw the empty tomb! He saw the linen wrappings lying there and the cloth that had been on Jesus head rolled up in a place by itself. The point is that they saw the empty tomb. No dead body. There had been no theft. The truth is that Jesus Christ has risen from the dead. He has defeated death, sin, the devil and his hold on humanity, and delivered the promises of God to all who believe.
We need to always look at this life and the resurrected life through the reality of the empty tomb. It is empty because Jesus has risen from the dead and because he lives, we too, shall live in God’s kingdom forever. I invite and encourage you to be present in worship this Holy Week and Easter Sunday as we celebrate an empty tomb and the resurrection of Our Lord. That tomb is empty because God has kept his promise. Come celebrate and praise God for the gift of a Savior, the gift of an empty tomb, the gift of a resurrection. Come and be present as we proclaim death has been defeated and Christ Is Risen!
Come look at Easter and see the risen Christ.
Pastor Butler +